By Stuart McWilliams, Morton Fraser
As the summer approaches, many students are turning their attention towards graduation and what they intend to do once they leave university. For most, this means looking for work or applying for a postgraduate course but international students from outside the EU will also need to consider their visa status if they intend to remain in the UK.
Here at Morton Fraser, we provide advice to international students who are looking to remain in the UK but aren't sure of their options or the best immigration route for them. This blog post will examine a case study of an international student who approached us for legal advice, and will demonstrate that there are a number of options available to people, depending on their circumstances.
The student who recently asked us for immigration advice is due to complete her Masters degree in July 2015. She is an international student who has lived in the UK for nearly 10 years and now considers this to be her home.
Firstly, we discussed her plans to find out what she wanted to do when she completed her course. The majority of visas contain restrictions on what an individual can do whilst they are here and it is important to consider these so that a client doesn't find themselves tied to a particular option they don't want to follow. We initially suggested these two options to her:
Our client was keen to move on from her studies and did not want to apply for a PhD. This meant that a further Tier 4 (general) student visa was not suitable for her. Contrary to popular belief, this would have been available to our client even though she had already completed more than seven years in the UK as student, as it is still possible to extend a student's stay, if they will be applying for a PhD.
Our client also informed us that she did not want to set up her own business or invest large sums of money in a UK business. This meant that a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, which is open to individuals who have £200,000 in funds to invest in their own business or an existing business, was not an appropriate option for her. In some cases, individuals can apply for this visa if they have access to £50,000 in regulated funding.
We were also able to exclude the Tier 1 (Investor) visa as this would have required our client to invest £2 million in the UK by way of share or loan capital in UK companies or UK Government bonds.
This left her with two main options:
A work visa
Our client was keen to find a job that would allow her to put her degree into practice. Whilst this is a route that many graduates follow, it is not straightforward for international students as not every employer is able to hire them.
In order for our client to apply for a work visa, known as a Tier 2 (General) visa, she would be required to find an employer that is registered with the Home Office and is willing to sponsor her. Our client was under the impression that this was not possible because any company would need to show that they could not find a suitable UK candidate for the job first. However, we were able to advise her that this was not the case because an exception applies when a graduate has completed their course and is applying to move from a student visa to a work visa.
Another option for our client was a visa that would allow her to complete an internship with a UK company. This type of visa is a Tier 5 visa and would not require her employer to be registered with the Home Office, as they could contract with a commercial company who would act as the sponsor instead. This visa had an added benefit for our client as some of the commercial companies offering this service also allow graduates to register with them and then introduce them to companies looking for interns.
A family visa
The final option for our client was to apply for a family visa. During her studies she had met her partner and, as he was a British national, this meant our client could apply for an unmarried partner visa. This visa option is open to couples who have lived together for two years.
This visa application required our client to show that her partner was earning £18,600 or more a year. As he had completed his studies and moved into a graduate job 12 months ago, he met this requirement.
This visa had the benefit of allowing our candidate to look for work without needing to be sponsored and this gave her a wider range of options to choose from.
This case study illustrates the range of options that are available to international students who are looking to stay in the UK after graduation. When considering life after university, it is important for students to consider both their short and long term plans and it is never too early for them to start thinking about their immigration options.